Mel & Pearl Shaw

By Mel and Pearl Shaw

Do you use a case for support (“case”) in your fundraising? Do you use your case to recruit board members, fundraising volunteers, and new staff? Do all members of your nonprofit know where the organization or institution is headed? Yes, you can fundraise, recruit leadership and staff, and manage an organization without a case, but it is so much easier when you work with a case.

Most organizations work from the premise that the only time they need a case is when they are preparing to engage in a major fundraising campaign. During such a campaign, the case is reserved for use with donors at the highest levels. We believe that any organization that depends on fundraising needs a case for support. And it is important to remember that all but the luckiest of nonprofits are in a perpetual state of fundraising. The case is your essential marketing material that you must have to support your efforts.

If you are new to fundraising, or not involved in fundraising management, you may be wondering, “what is a case for support?” Here is our working definition. The case for support is not a literary piece – it is a sales and marketing document that clearly and concisely communicates what you are raising money for, why someone should give, and what the impact of their gift will be. It is rooted in the organization’s mission, reflects its values and place in the market, and is based on financial projections.” The case can be communicated using a deck or PowerPoint, as a brochure, as a video, or a simple letter or document. We recommend investing in graphics or video, but at a minimum you need a clear, concise, and compelling document.

It can take time to build consensus on exactly how much your organization needs to raise, how the funds will be used, and what the anticipated impact will be. But there are so many benefits. A case mobilizes your organization as you work together to define and agree on what you want to accomplish. It highlights your accomplishments and track record, and in so doing, it demonstrates your capacity. It educates and communicates to your donors, prospects and supporters where you are going, your goals, vision, values, and mission. The case defines who you are as an organization, shows that you are meeting a need, and highlights your uniqueness in the marketplace. When you include information about your financial position you demonstrate transparency; when you share information about your collaborators and partners you show how you are part of the larger community. A well-crafted and professionally designed case enhances your nonprofit as a professional organization and can help recruit volunteer leadership and potential future board members.

Here’s the bottom line: The case is a key marketing tool – and the source document from which you can draw as you create messages for multiple media. Instead of asking, “why bother with a case for support?” we recommend asking, “how can we move forward without one?”